MEDFORD, Ore. – Drinking water has been shut off at two Medford schools after officials said tests revealed it contained too much lead.
The results received late last week showed water from 73 percent of fixtures at Jackson Elementary and 80 percent of fixtures at Roosevelt Elementary exceeded the 20 parts per billion level at which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency calls for cleanup measures.
The findings came after the district completely replaced plumbing at both schools in 2009. Officials said tests taken between 2011 and 2015 showed no indication of elevated lead levels.
“These are the last (schools) that we expected there to be any problems; it just doesn’t make any sense to see those elevated levels,” said Ron Havniear, the district’s facilities and support services manager.
The Mail Tribune reported school officials sent parents a letter, took additional samples for a retest and distributed water bottles for students and staff to use during the Kids Unlimited summer camp program at Roosevelt and Jackson.
The Medford Water Commission will take samples Wednesday or Thursday to see if the lead is coming from the municipal water supply. If that’s eliminated as a source, the district will look at its plumbing to find the source of the lead, Havniear said.
“We’re in a holding pattern until we get the next round of samples back,” He said.
In the meantime, the district is referring parents with concerns to medical professionals who can determine whether blood tests are warranted.
Without federal mandates for testing water systems in school buildings and with the Flint, Michigan, water crisis at center stage of the debate, Gov. Kate Brown has called on Oregon’s 197 school districts to craft procedures for testing lead, radon and other chemicals at their campuses by this fall.
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